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THE EXAMINATIONS                           37

After the proper ceremonies they selected a site for the family
cemetery at Old Man's Spring, at the foot of a mountain slope. The
spring was so named because, according to the people of the district,
on clear moonlight nights an old man with white hair and a beautiful
face 'could be seen sitting or reclining on the bank; but upon the
approach of people he would disappear into the water. Later Su Shun
was buried in the same grave, and it was from the name of this place,
Old Man's Spring, that he was popularly known as "Laochuan".

In his sacrificial prayer to his wife's spirit Su Shim said: "I know your
heart as a mother did not wish your children high official honours, but
that they might be renowned in literature. When I was young I wasted
my talent; I knew that in your heart you were concerned lest I should
die unknown. 'With a sigh, I decided to reform, and it is thanks to you
that I have this day. # . . In your grave I have opened two chambers
that I may share the tomb with you when I die. . . . Alas, I am old
and alone in this wide world; after your death, who will give me good
advice? I am going back to our old home to make improvements and
alterations in our house. If your soul has not perished, come and
visit us."

The twenty-seven months of compulsory hibernation were the happy
days of Su Tungpo's youth. The brothers were living with their young
wives. Tungpo often visited his wife's home at Chingshen, which was
in beautiful mountain country with streams and deep ponds and
' Buddhist temples on high mountain-tops. An air of mystery and
romance and legends hung over the region. Su Tungpo often visited
the temples or enjoyed picnics and drinking parties on the banks of the
river near the Juitsao Bridge with his wife's uncles and cousins. On
summer evenings he sat otitside their cottage eating melon seeds and
hard fried beans. It was a big household: there were his wife's father,
Wang Chieh, and her two uncles and their families. Among the cousins
in the Wang family, some thirty in number, there was one girl, known
as "Miss Number Twenty-Seven", who was destined to become a part
of his life.

Meanwhile Su senior was waiting for his appointment. He was
eligible for office at this time because mourning for a wife was not an
impediment tcv holding an office, as mourning a mother was. High
officials at the capital had promised help, but he had been waiting for
over a year and no news had arrived. Finally an imperial edict came,
asking him to go up to the capital and submit himself to special
examinations. This threw the old man into consternation. By that
time he had developed a phobia about all examinations. He wrote a
reply to the emperor declining to go, giving old age and poor health
as his excuse. But in his letter to a friend he said: "I do not necessarily
want to be an official, nor do I decline on principle to be one. . . . Why